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OPSEU endorses Wallin bill to end blood-for-pay

Ottawa – Senator Pamela Wallin’s bill to ban private, for-profit blood clinics is the right thing to do at the right time, says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

“I applaud the senator for trying to keep Canada’s blood system voluntary and safe,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “As a former journalist, she knows the devastation that tainted blood can cause. We can’t risk losing more lives to put more money in private companies’ pockets.”

Wallin’s action comes in the wake of a report released last week by a Health Canada-appointed committee on Canada’s supply of blood plasma. The report stated it had no objections to paid, private plasma donations to increase Canada’s supply.

“Twenty years ago, Justice Krever recommended that further tragedy be averted by ensuring our blood system remained donor-based and public,” said Sean Allen, chair of OPSEU’s Blood Services and Diagnostics Division. “Private enterprises are always tempted to reduce costs and maximize profits – and that means cutting corners on testing and screening.

“Because private operators are not accountable to the public, it would be more difficult for the government to act quickly and decisively if a new problem arose within the blood system,” Allen noted. “That was a big part of the problem with previous contaminations.

“That possibility is made greater, and the risks to both donors and recipients are increased, when you consider that, sadly, the individuals most likely to sell their blood are those whose health may already be compromised, particularly through recreational drug use.”

Thomas was also concerned about the societal aspects of blood-for-money. “Donating blood is one of the most common forms of pure altruism. We give our blood to save the health or life of someone who, most often, is a total stranger. When blood donation is seen as a matter of dollars and cents, instead of a free gift of life, yet another societal good is sacrificed to the god of profit.

“Furthermore, blood-for-pay will certainly discourage donors from giving voluntarily. A paid blood system will not increase the overall quantity, while its quality will be diminished. It’s a lose-lose proposition all the way down the line.”

Paid blood donation has been outlawed in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia. Some 2,000 Canadians contracted HIV from contaminated blood products, while, about 30,000 others contracted hepatitis C. Thousands of those died or will die from the tainted transfusions.

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931